6 May 2023
By Elaine Murphy
Kinsale Community School hosted a two-day EU Council of Ministries conference in collaboration with the Department of Education aimed at exploring Sustainable Education Strategies. The event, held on May 3rd and 4th, brought together educationalists and representatives from 13 different countries, as part of the European Education Area Strategic Framework, to discuss the need for collaboration across educational systems within Europe to address issues relating to sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
The keynote speakers at the event included two distinguished experts in their respective fields, Professor Paul Walsh and Lord David Puttnam. Professor Walsh is a renowned Professor of International Development Studies and the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies at University College Dublin. Lord Puttnam is an accomplished film producer, renowned educator, and prominent environmentalist.
Professor Paul Walsh shared his expertise on the significance of sustainability education in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. He emphasised the role of education in creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable world and stressed the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration in achieving this vision.
Lord Puttnam’s address focused on the critical role of education in shaping a sustainable future. He emphasized the importance of schools in preparing students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, armed with the necessary skills to tackle the complex challenges facing our planet. Lord Puttnam acknowledged the challenges posed by Brexit, COVID, and the war in Ukraine and how these crises have shifted the attention away from sustainability. He commended the student voice for keeping this critical issue at the top of the agenda and encouraged them to continue their campaign for change in our consumerist society.
The conference also included panel discussions with Laura Power, Education Officer for World Wise Global Schools, Liam Wegimont, Executive Director of Global Education Network Europe, and teachers from the school.
The highlight of the event was a panel discussion with students from Kinsale Community School, who shared their experiences in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, Young Environmentalist, and Young Social Innovators programs. Fergal McCarthy, School Principal of Kinsale Community School and Vice President of the European Federation of Education Employers, said, “This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to be given active agency in respect of a global concern which is very real and very urgent. He commended the students for keeping these issues at the top of the agenda.”
During the conference, visitors had the opportunity to witness firsthand Kinsale Community School’s commitment to sustainability through their various sustainable practices such as solar panels for energy generation, water harvesting for conservation, and the creation of an outdoor learning space where students could cultivate plants and food. They also had a chance to see the MyGug, a locally produced invention that produces biogas for the Home Economics room and fertilizer from food waste generated in the school canteen and staffroom. Additionally, delegates had the privilege of touring the Kinsale Further Education Campus, where they experienced how sustainability is a cornerstone of the college’s philosophy.
The Department of Education’s conference held at Kinsale Community School marked a significant milestone in addressing the challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainability, highlighting the vital role of education in creating a sustainable future. The school’s unwavering commitment to sustainable practices and fostering a positive learning environment for students was evident throughout the event and served as a source of inspiration for educators and communities across Europe. The conference was a resounding success, emphasizing the importance of Education for Sustainability and the need for collaborative partnerships to achieve a sustainable future. Through showcasing innovative and sustainable practices, Kinsale Community School emerged as a leader in sustainable education practices in Europe, emphasizing the need for connections beyond the classroom.